Thursday, July 24

Just Ramblin, No. 11: Naming kids; four-day school week

We Americans live in a great country. I love the variety of people, of geography, of traditions, of ethnicities. I love the options and opportunities to explore and to learn. But there are some wacky things that happen here. Fortunately, we are not alone in being wacky.

I saw an article in yesterday's news that a judge in New Zealand finally said enough to unusual, even bizarre names. The story is about girl named Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. Seriously. That's her name. Well, that was her name. The judge renamed her. And the 9-year-old was so embarrassed by her name that she created a nickname for herself and never told her friends her real name. Can you imagine that first day of school each year when the teacher takes attendance? Wow. How did she get around that?

But how about parents who might want to name a child Fish and Chips or Number 16 Bus Shelter? I know of kids who have been named after the towns in which they were conceived which made me wonder about that bus shelter name.

Apparently there is New Zealand legislation that forbids parents from naming their children something that might cause offense to a reasonable person. There's an interesting riff there, too. Would a reasonable person name her child Fish and Chips? or Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii? And what about being offended by the foolishness of someone who would impose such a name on their child? Then again, if we look at celebrity naming approaches. . . .

Back in the good ol' US of A, rural school districts are contemplating a four-day school week because of high gas prices. Apparently some districts in Kentucky, New Mexico, and Minnesota have already gone to a four-day school week. In many ways, it makes sense. Saves transportation costs, but also saves money for heating and cooling, lights, etc.

While I think this makes a lot of sense in some ways, I find it ironic that this is case at the same time that schools are wrestling with the length of the school day and the length of the school year, parents complaining about the loss of summer, debate about year-round schools, and concern about our place in the global academic world.

I get the point of saving money, but how does this help the kids learn? What I want to know is what kinds of adjustment the adminstrations and teachers are able to make to make sure kids have access to the kind of learning and resources they need. What do students do on the day they are not in school? Are schools supplementing classroom time with some sort of at-home or independent or online study? Are teachers able to organize some sort of group study/learning events that are more local to the students? Are parents more involved in their childrens' educations? What kind of impact does this have on any kind of intermural or school activities?

I don't think a four-day school week is necessarily a bad idea and understand the economic driver behind it, but education needs to be about the kids and their educations. So I hope those school districts have come up with some really innovative ways to help their students continue to learn rather than simply having a long weekend every weekend.

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